How Palo Alto’s water restrictions will affect you

    Ornamental uses of water such as lawns will be most affected by Palo Alto’s water restrictions. These restrictions come in response the California’s ongoing drought, with 2014 being the warmest and third driest year on record in California, according to California Water Science Center.

    Ornamental use of water such as watering lawns will be most affected by Palo Alto’s water restrictions. These restrictions come in response to California’s ongoing drought, with 2014 being the warmest and third driest year on record in California, according to California Water Science Center. Photo by William Zhou.

    In response to California’s drought and statewide water goals, the City of Palo Alto is taking initiative to cut its water use by enacting water restrictions that will affect all citizens starting June 1.

    These restrictions will comply with the state’s first mandatory statewide water use reduction act.

    “Palo Alto needs to cut its water use by 24 percent between June 1 and Feb. 28, 2016,” said Catherine Elvert, Palo Alto Utilities Communications Manager. “The results from this year will be compared to that of 2013, the last non-drought year we’ve had.”

    The following are the restrictions that the city will enact to reduce its water use, according to the city’s website: 

    1) Irrigation of landscapes or turf during and within 48 hours after a measurable rainfall, more than two days per week, or between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. is prohibited.

    2) Odd numbered addresses or no address may only irrigate on Mondays and Thursdays; Even numbered addresses may only irrigate on Tuesdays and Fridays.

    3) Broken or defective plumbing and irrigation systems must be repaired or replaced within a reasonable period.

    4) Applying water to driveways and sidewalks is prohibited, except where necessary to address an immediate health and safety need.

    5) Restaurants and other food service operations shall serve water to customers only upon request.

    Among the several restrictions listed above, residents will most be affected by those that limit “ornamental” water, or water used for purely decorative purposes:

    “We [the city] don’t want to limit people using water for useful purposes like drinking, growing vegetables, maintaining sanitation, and areas for children, sports and pets,” Elvert said. “We want to restrict water that is being used for no viable purpose and saving that water for more important uses. ”

    Some Palo Altans may question how the drought will affect them outside their houses.

    “At our parks and city facilities, we’re going to let unused grass die,” Elvert said. “You can also expect drier landscape conditions during the summer. Palo Alto is slightly cooler than other areas in the state, but the water supply is a finite resource. It’s like a fish tank: if it’s being used in one place, it is not in another.”

    “I think it’s a really good idea to restrict water,” freshman Rebecca Yao said. “I try to take shorter showers and we recently changed our lawn into desert plants last summer. People don’t really use their lawns and the desert plants look really nice and make people aware  of the issue. My friend has a sign that says ‘brown is the new green.'”

    Violations will follow a tiered structure, with repeat offenses having larger consequences, according to the city’s website.

    1st violation: Doorhanger/Email/Phone call to customer

    2nd violation: Doorhanger/Email/Phone call to customer

    3rd violation: Certified letter from the Utility Director notifying customer of violation and potential future fines

    5th violation: Flow restrictors may be installed

    Violations will be enforced through community efforts.

    “We’re planning on bringing a couple more water waste coordinators on board to help with regulation,” Elvert said. “But it will largely be based on customers contacting us with [their own reports] through the PA 311 app. We’ll go out to reported sites and check in with the neighbors and [home owner].”

    The city has posted several suggestions on how residents can cut down on water usage today on its website.

    “The most important message is that, we [Palo Alto Utilities] are here to help,” Elvert said. “We have free services, including surveys, tips, rebates, and we can provide assistance.”

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